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Religulous [Oct. 6th, 2008|02:39 pm]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
Some impressions:

1. Bill Maher needs to figure out how groom his hair so it doesn't look like greasy seaweed. Seriously, on the big screen it's really an uncomfortable distraction.

2. All of the interviews were very dishonestly edited. Several times I saw cuts after something Maher said to a reaction shot of the interviewee, where the interviewee wasn't reacting to what Maher said. Any time there's an edit like that, it's just to make the interviewee look like an idiot.

3. You can always have the last word if you're editing the interview. You can also cut out any part where the interviewee makes a reasonable rebuttal to Maher's premise.

4. His whole thesis in this movie -- that religion is bad -- can be refuted thusly:

Everyone from Paul of Tarsus to Gödel has shown that all knowledge is incomplete, that all models of the universe are provisional. Religious people have their imperfect models of the universe, and atheists have theirs. You can make an effective argument (as Maher does, up to a point) that a scientific empericism is closer to describing the 'real world' than religious faith.

But you can't make an effective argument that an atheistic or agnostic world view is 'better' -- for two reasons: 1) Assuming that you can objectively judge the outcomes of decisions, in both the religous and secular can you argue that one is 'better'? 2) Can you even judge anything objectively?

This is a functional argument for religious faith -- even if some of the things you believe are silly, you may in fact be a better person for your faith. The same thing goes for atheists -- you can argue atheism meaning there is no a priori morality. Atheists can choose to be go wild on the world, since nothing has any particular meaning. Or you can work from human tradition, common sense, and come to a human idea of moralty.

But what you can't say, scientifically, is "those people over there are nuts." Which more or less is what Maher's movie is all about. You don't know enough about the universe to make that judgement!

[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 10:15 pm (UTC)
I work for the Dept of Psychiatry on brain imaging, and believe me, the more one knows about brain imaging, the less one draws strong, confident conclusions based on brain imaging.

Everything significant that happens in the brain is the result of a combination of electrical and chemical phenomena, which we're only beginning to understand. Any thoughts that involve emotion, or emotions that involve thought, are global phenomena of the brain with feedback loops through the endocrine system.

And we're only down to about 1mm resolution in scans -- the FMRI studies of brain activity in real time are much fuzzier and lower resolution than that. Consider the size of a neuron vs 1mm and it's clear to me we don't know diddly yet. These are very early days, and anyone getting reductionist about it are talking out their ass.

Not to mention the fact that 'the subject does X and these parts of the brain use more oxygen' doesn't really tell you much of anything. You can get a very general map of brain functions, something we've been refining for 50 years, but we're nowhere near knowing at the fundamental level how consciousness works.

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[User Picture]From: bitterwhiteguy
2008-10-07 10:19 pm (UTC)
Fair enough, I probably overstated the simplicity of the situation as it's been a decade since I took the course.
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 11:00 pm (UTC)
"we're nowhere near knowing at the fundamental level how consciousness works"

That is clearly the case, but I can guarantee you it's not invisible help elves.
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2008-10-07 11:56 pm (UTC)
the idea though is that we WILL one day be able to examine these things with greater detail and map functions to parts of the brain conclusively. the same is not true of "god". i mean, already we have machines that can be controlled by your thought processes, but we have no machines that can be controlled by god.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-08 12:47 am (UTC)
> but we have no machines that can be controlled by god.
How do you know ;-)
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